There’s hope for a tastier, healthier, more robust tomorrow: high-tech new food preservation methods that fend off the bad stuff (bacteria, spoilage) while protecting the good (flavor, texture, nutrients). Scientists are experimenting with everything from microwave sterilization to blasts of plasma to ensure food stays appetizing longer—even without refrigeration. That salmon dinner you bought on Monday? It’ll taste just as fresh a week later. And it’ll be just as good for you.

Blue Blast

Best for: Berries, nuts
Scientists at Scotland’s University of Strathclyde pioneered a technique that bombards fluids with high-intensity blue light, which produces a form of oxygen that’s lethal to pathogens. It’s now being adapted for use on berries and other foods.

Radio Waves

Best for: Eggs
The USDA has developed a machine for eliminating salmonella in fresh eggs. Electrodes pulse radio frequency waves through the shells, targeting the space between the white and yolk where salmonella dwells.

Plasma Cloud

Best for: Fruits and vegetables, seeds, salads
Put the food on a conveyor belt, blast it with cold plasma, and—voilà—a mixture of nitrous oxides, hydrogen peroxide, and other molecules lays waste to bacteria.

Micro Rays

Best for: Frittatas, mac and cheese, salmon
With microwave-assisted thermal sterilization, packaged food cooks inside a pressurized tube while focused microwave energy kills microorganisms in minutes. AmazonFresh is reportedly interested.

Germ Warfare

Best for: Salad, berries
Think of this as probiotics for plants. Scientists douse fruits and vegetables in a solution containing good bugs, like bacteriophages, that kills the bad bugs, like salmonella or listeria. General Mills and Pillsbury have both explored the tech.

Atomic Bomb

Best for: Meat, fruits and vegetables, spices
High-energy electrons—yeah, radiation—are shot into food, beating bacteria by breaking up their DNA. It kills bacteria but not aroma, says Cornell University food science professor Carmen Moraru.

This article appears in the March issue. Subscribe now.

Illustrations by Martin Nicolausson

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